Should Bushwick Rezone to Halt Runaway Development?

Alarmed by a boom in construction, new businesses, and a rapid rise in rents, Bushwick Community Board Four has requested a downzoning to keep a lid on development, DNAinfo reported. However, much like the request for capping bar sales at midnight, it has no power to force a rezoning. The rezoning would prevent high rises from springing up in residential neighborhoods and address “the proliferation of bars, nightclubs, liquor stores on the main streets and avenues, and box storage warehouses,” as a letter from the community board to elected officials put it. “The last thing Bushwick needs is high rises. It needs affordable housing,” said Bushwick resident Rolando Guzman, who worked with the nearby non-profit St. Nick’s Alliance during Williamsburg’s rezoning in 2005. “And there needs to be some rule to prevent the displacement of local businesses and residents.” Any rezoning would require “lengthy analysis and public engagement,” said a spokesman for the Department of City Planning. Do you support a downzoning?
Bushwick Housing Boom Spurs Locals to Rein in Redevelopment [DNAinfo]
Photo by philipjohnson

49 Comment

  • Let me get this straight, CB4 wants to keep prices down by limiting supply? They must have been absent during Econ 101.

    • yeah, cuz that supply increase in Williamsburg really did wonders for lowering prices.

      • ianmac47

        WTF are you talking about? Williamsburg’s most desirable areas were height capped. Also, the people driving the prices up in Williamsburg are spillover from the East and West Village and the Lower East Side, also all height capped. Every time the city offers more protectionist zoning to protect values of existing property owners, there is less housing available and that puts price pressure on further and further from the intended protected neighborhoods.

        • ” Also, the people driving the prices up in Williamsburg are spillover from the East and West Village and the Lower East Side”

          WOW – thanks for that revelation.

          My point stands – 1000s of new units of inventory were added to WB, and prices doubled. So the market is a little more complex than your Econ 101 supply + demand

          How long have you lived in Williamsburg? You don’t sound very familiar with how things went down.

          • sixyearsandcounting

            Except, as dh points out, reality doesn’t work like a textbook. Supply has increased and so have rents.

          • Then demand has increased more than supply. Please see diagram above.

          • Right, and demand increased because of that new supply, which was different from existing housing. People living in the edge now weren’t trying to live in 4 room railroads in 2009.

          • ianmac47

            New supply does not create new demand. Unsatisfied demand creates more demand.

            People living in the Edge wanted to live in Manhattan but got pushed out because of downzones there.

          • dittoburg

            You can’t get a view of the Manhattan skyline from Manhattan, you have to be outside Manhattan. Like at the Edge etc.

            “New supply does not create new demand.”
            Correct, That’s why there was a large demand for iPhones before iPhones existed. I was demanding an iPhone in 1987 if I remember correctly.

          • You are right – my skyline view from my 33rd floor apartment on the Upper East Side must have been a figment of my imagination o_0

          • “People living in the Edge wanted to live in Manhattan but got pushed out because of downzones there. ”

            this is a very popular, but incorrect assumption. Lots of people that bought in Williamsburg did so because they were sick and tired of the banality of Manhattan.

          • My douchebag co-workers who all moved into Northside Piers would disagree. They wanted to keep their banality and just pay a little less for it.

          • “My douchebag co-workers who all moved into Northside Piers would disagree. They wanted to keep their banality and just pay a little less for it.”

            Hopefully they will flip their apartments and move back to Manhattan

          • Just keep believing that.

          • They also weren’t trying to live in Williamsburg… The graph does not lie!

          • dittoburg

            Economics 102: supply and demand curve is an approximation, actual verified instances of its perfect market theory manifestation are low, and the various assumptions required are not universal. In housing markets, there are plenty of examples where it is problematic.

          • ianmac47

            Downzoning more to “protect” neighborhoods is not addressing the problem. The problem is that the most desirable areas in the city have been enjoying increasingly tight protectionist zoning laws and the solution isn’t more of these rules that will only further drive up pricing.

            Its not a matter of just rolling back height limits around Bedford. Its about rolling back limits on height in the hundreds of bocks of the Lower East Side, the village, and everywhere else that over the last decade the Bloombergian influence has protected the celebrity-banker class.

            The only thing downzoning has done is protect the views of the finger buildings that broke ground before the zoning changes while institutionalizing a housing shortage.

          • dittoburg

            “The only thing downzoning has done is protect the views of the finger buildings that broke ground before the zoning changes while institutionalizing a housing shortage.”

            No, that wasn’t the only thing it did. It kept inland areas at a livable human scale. You’re speaking like a developer not a resident.

    • Is sounds like they want to keep prices down by building more affordable housing. Maybe they just should install another round of housing projects, that will keep prices down for sure.

    • Things like this just convince me that most people are f&*king idiotic.

  • Seems way too early to cut the capital base out from under Bushwick. Bushwick needs more development to secure the improvements that have occurred. As for the “displacement” of local businesses and residents…..the St Nicks Alliance should be working with local businesses and residents to help them negotiate long-term leases.

  • The only way to keep prices down in Bushwick would be to 1) move it further away from Manhattan / Williamsburg (doesn’t have to be geographic, they could just petition to stop subway service!); 2) Make those places cheaper so there’s no spillover; or 3) Increase crime so that the neighborhood is so dangerous people don’t want to move there. I guess they could try for number three, which makes about as much sense for the people living there as this proposal, but the other two don’t seem like they’re under their control.

  • So a neighborhood which was horrible and declining for 50 years is finally revitalizing, and the Community Board sees this as a “problem” that needs to be remedied?

    Apparently the “bad old days” were just fine, but once you get new investment, growth, safety improvements, time to nip that in the bud?

    I really don’t understand this mind-set. The revitalization in Bushwick is fantastic. That area was just awful 20 years ago, and it’s really turning in to an interesting area. Crime is down like 90%, people actually want to live there, by choice, and lots of interesting things happening. If anything, the Community Board should support and encourage these changes.

  • “The last thing Bushwick needs is high rises.” — really? Perhaps Bushwick needs to stay a drug dealers hood were police hesitates to appear… or am I missing something?…

  • ianmac47

    Yeah, I’m sure limiting new housing will keep rents down. Because, you know, with fewer housing units available, I’m sure landlords will rent to poor people rather than rich white kids for twice as much.

  • A landlord who doesnt want to risk his future income on the possibility that rezoning wont occur, that interest rates will dramatically increase, that the next mayor wont effectively handle crime, that commercial rents will not increase for a substantial period of time etc,etc….

    A lease is a negotiated contract and unless the tenant has a great business AND waits till the end of his current lease – the LL hardly holds all the cards.

  • East New York

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable not to want your neighborhood to become inundated by bars and nightclubs. There’s nothing wrong with a few good ones, but proliferation is another matter. And there are lots of neighborhoods that could use more “affordable housing” besides Bushwick. But rezoning or “rules to prevent the displacement of local businesses and residents” goes a bit too far in my opinion.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Maybe the board could learn from Cyprus and not allow people to take money out of the neighborhhod.

  • Consideration must be given to the preservation of historic buildings as Ridgewood has sucessfully done and continues to do to prevent muddled renovations which are not aesthetically pleasing like painting the exterior brick lime green and removing the historic cornices. This is the charm that draws many to the neighborhoods. Unbridled expansion needs curbing. I am in favor of expansiona nd renovation which is reasonable and well planned.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Continuing along the lines of economic terminology, bushwick is an “inferior good.” As people’s income rise, they’d rather be elsewhere.

    Oh, I forgot, Robertas is there so now it’s no longer an inferior good.

  • I wouldn’t discount pent up demand. Lots of new graduates come to New York and will only think of living in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. I’ve met retirees who are seeking waterfront apartments in Williamsburg…

    Cities all over the US have had a huge increase in demand over the past 15 years or so, if not earlier.

    As far as Bushwick goes, there’s some pretty poor existing housing stock, which would benefit from replacement. And not all of the neighborhood is in such high demand. Near the Myrtle Ave. J stop there’s a ton of fairly new affordable housing of various types – apartment buildings, townhouses, co-ops – mostly built through Vito Lopez’s org.

  • daveinbedstuy

    “sick and tired of the banality of Manhattan.”

    yes, because so many restaurants in Williamsburg are so much better than you find in Manhattan…not to mention the musueums and theatres.

    • “yes, because so many restaurants in Williamsburg are so much better than you find in Manhattan…not to mention the museums and theatres.”

      Glad you agree. However, I will give Manhattan the edge on the museums and theaters, but since that’s not really part of most people’s daily life, I don’t see it has a selling point. I really wouldn’t want to live within walking distance of the theater district, in fact I am usually happy to get out of there. Museums are nice to visit, but thousands of tourists make it the kind of place that’s also nice to leave. As far as restaurants – I would be perfectly happy to only eat out in Brooklyn, unless of course I wanted McDonalds, BK, or subway, then Manhattan has the edge in sheer numbers.

  • Last one into the ark pulls up the gangplank.

    Guess it is time to start investing in Cyprus Hills and Brownsville Heights.

  • The most effective way to reduce housing prices in Bushwick (and Williamsburg and the LES) would be new train lines to bring further away neighborhoods closer.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Queens has lots of subway access. they can move there if they want. But alas, no Robertas. Probably no kale either.

  • ianmac47

    The neighborhood can go ahead and downzone or cap the heights of new developments. That won’t help the people living there continue to afford the spaces they have.

    With downzoning, a decade from now Bushwick is going to look like Park Slope: baby carriages, white people wearing khaki pants, foreign cars with liberal bumper stickers. People with money can afford to pay higher rents or make purchases by outbidding other buyers; limiting the available housing stock will only accelerate the process of gentrification by forcing the existing population to move out rather than creating new housing for new residents.

    • Correction: Bushwick looks vaguely like Park Slope of 1960 with a recorded African-Americans population that replaced the collapsing European population. It was re-segregated by 1980, then gentrified. You have to examine the long picture.

  • I’m not going to get involved in the nuances of this neighborhood fight, but I would like to point out that “affordable housing” does not necessarily mean high rise projects. It does not necessarily mean “projects” at all.

    Most so called affordable housing going up in Bushwick now are two and three family townhouses, and rehabbing of small apartment buildings. Some, although certainly not all, of those townhouses look pretty nice. I’m sure the people in them think so too, and would not want to be told they were in some kind of housing project.